Unit 1 - Lesson 7

Unit One Lesson 7
Status of colonies after the
Declaration of Independence
 Colonies were “Free and Independent States”
 2nd Continental Congress called on all states to
rewrite their constitutions
 Most stuck to their pre-independence patterns but
made important modifications
 Natural Rights, Rule of Law, Republicanism and
constitutional government were included in all
Basic Ideas included in state constitutions
 Higher Law and Natural Rights
State constitution was the higher law and the constitution placed limits on
governmental power
 Purpose of the government was to protect citizens’ natural rights of live,
liberty and property
 Social Contract
Agreement among the people to create a government to protect natural
rights as expressed in the preamble or bill of rights
 Popular Sovereignty
Ultimate power to govern rests with the people
 Representative Government and the Right to Vote
Representatives elected by “qualified” voters (70% of white men)
 Annual elections were set
 In 7 states, Freed African American and Native Americans could vote if they
met the property owning requirements
Basic Ideas included in state constitutions
 Legislative Supremacy
Strong Legislatures elected by the people (distrust of executive power)
 Principle of majority rules
 Idea of Legislative Supremacy based on
Most capable branch or reflecting the will of the people
 Voters determine their representatives (and can remove them)
 Executive Branch less accountable to the people and thus less trusted
 Judges less accountable to the people so less trusted
• Some states made judges stand for election
• Some states gave judicial functions to the legislative branch
Critical Thinking Exercise
 John Locke and some other natural rights philosophers believed
that in a representative government the legislative branch
should be supreme because it is the branch CLOSEST to the
people and reflects the wishes of the people. Accordingly, the
legislative branch is the least likely to violate the people’s rights.
Most of the early state constitutions reflected Locke’s view and
weighted the balance of governmental power in favor of their
1. Do you agree with Locke’s argument for the supremacy of legislative
power? WHY or WHY NOT
2. Does the legislative branch necessarily reflect the people’s will? Explain
your response.
3. What might a government be like in which the executive or judicial
branch was supreme rather than the legislature?
Examples of Legislative Supremacy
 Executive Branches were weak and dependent on the
Legislative Branch
Governors had short terms in office (often one year)
Appointments by the Governor had to be approved by the
Governors had little or no legislative power (limited veto)
Checks and Balances on legislative power
Bicameral legislatures
Governor’s veto
Voters could elect new representatives
Massachusetts constitution differs
 John Adams (2nd President) wrote
 Popular Sovereignty
 Governor had effective checks on Legislative Branch
 Judges terms based on good behavior not term limits
 2 Key Differences
Strong Executive
Governor’s salary fixed, could not be changed by legislature
 Governor had power to revise laws (could be overridden)
 Governor had power to appoint many officials in exec. and jud. branch
Representation of various economic classes
Those with large land holding voted for governor
 Those with fair land holdings voted for upper house
 Those with small land holdings voted for lower house
What were the State Declaration of Rights
 Preamble and/or Bill of Rights stated rights of the
inhabitants of their state
 Lists of rights varied but were based on the idea that
people have certain inherent rights that must be
protected from governmental interference
 Without these rights WRITTEN into the
responsibilities of the government, the government
would be more likely to abuse their power and try to
limit these rights
What Rights did other states protect?
 Most states adopted something similar to Virginia either in the
body of the constitution or in a specific bill of rights
 Most included
The right to vote
Free and frequent elections
The right to petition the government for redress of grievances
No taxation without representation
 Right to Counsel and Trial by a Jury of One’s Peers
 Protection from illegal searches and seizures
 Protections from self-incrimination
 Protections from excessive bail and fines
 Protections from cruel and unusual punishment
 Most feared a military tyranny: “well regulated civilian militia”
Important ideas in the
Virginia Declaration of Rights
 Expressed the peoples’ understanding of the fundamental,
inalienable rights and the idea that people create
government to protect those rights
 James Madison and George Mason on committee that
wrote up this list. Will influence Madison’s writing of the
US Bill of Rights
All men are by nature created equal and independent and have rights
All power is derived from and kept by the people
Government is instituted for the common benefit, protection and
security of the people, nation, or community
If the government does not serve these purposes, the people have the
right to alter or abolish it
All men are entitled to the free exercise of religion
Virginia Declaration of Rights
 “No free government, or the blessing of liberty, can
be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence
to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and
virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental
principles …It is the mutual duty of all to practice
Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards
each other.”
Short Answer Topics
 Lesson One: Hobbes and Locke
 Lesson Two: Natural Rights
 Lesson Three: Class system in England
 Lesson Four: Documents of Change
 Lesson Five: Rights in the Colonies
 Lesson Six: Declaration of Independence
 Lesson Seven: Rights in the new states
Unit One Essays
 How did both classical republicans and the natural rights
philosophers influence the Founders’ views about government?
What are the essential differences between classical republicanism and
natural rights philosophy?
Why do both classical republicans and natural rights philosophers stress
the need for education and preparation for citizenship?
 What are the fundamental characteristics of a constitutional
In what ways does constitutional government mean limited government?
Describe at least three provisions of the Constitution that provide a
means of preventing the abuse or misuse of governmental power.
Explain how these provisions work in our system of government today.
 What effect did colonial experiences have on the Founders’ views
about rights and government?
In what ways were 18th century American and British societies similar or
dissimilar in terms of the rights of individual liberty, equality of
opportunity, and property?
How did early state constitution reflect colonial experiences as well as the
ides of classical republicanism and natural rights philosophy?

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